Recovery of disabled
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vehicles 3 by Les Oldridge, T Eng (CEI), MIMI, AMIRTE LAST WEEK 1 dealt with the problem associated with towing broken-down artics. In this connection the maximum permitted length of a vehicle train must be considered when deciding whether vehicles can be lawfully used.
Normally, a trailer must not exceed 12 metres in length (Regulation 68, Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1973) but this same regulation makes a special exemption for broken-down vehicles being towed in consequence of the breakdown. Where a motor vehicle is drawing one trailer the combined length must not exceed 18 m (C and U Regulation 128) but here again there is a special exemption for brokendown vehicles being towed. A recovery wagon towing a rigid vehicle would come within this category so there is no need to be concerned about maximum lengths in this case.
When two trailers are being drawn, ie a breakdown wagon towing an artic, then the overall length of the combination of vehicles must not exceed 25.9m (85 ft), unless special conditions are complied with. This length seems ample for most towing jobs with a normal-length breakdown vehicle. Incidentally, where two trailers are drawn the towing vehicle must not exceed 9.2 m (30.2 ft) in length.
Where the broken-down vehicle is attached to the breakdown lorry by a rope or chain the distance between the two vehicles must not be more than 4.5m (14.76ft). Where the distance between the towing and towed vehicles exceeds 1.5 m (4.92ft) the means by which the two vehicles are attached must be made "clearly visible to other persons using the road within a reasonable distance from either side of the vehicle". Nothing is laid down as to how this should be done but a red rag tied on to a rope or chain should meet the case. This regulation applies irrespective of whether a rope or rigid drawbar is used and painting the latter a bright colour or, perhaps, with black and yellow stripes should make it easily seen so that the law is complied with.
Regulation 25 of the C and U Regs decrees that no trailer may be used for the conveyance of passengers for hire or reward, but it exempts broken-down vehicles being towed or carried on a trailer in consequence of the breakdown provided a speed of 48 km/ h (30 mph) is not exceeded. If more than seven passengers are carried in these circumstances then a rigid drawbar must be used. Regulation 127 prohibits, with certain exceptions, the towing of a trailer by a public service vehicle. One of the exceptions is the drawing of one empty psv by another empty psv in an emergency. It seems, therefore, that if a bus breaks down in service, it can legally be towed with the passengers still aboard provided it is not towed by another psv, 30 mph is not exceeded and a rigid drawbar is used. If the passengers are taken off by a relief bus then another empty psv, could tow the broken-down one.
Normally, a motor vehicle drawing a trailer similar to a broken-down vehicle would require an "attendant" in addition to the driver. Because the brakes on the broken-down vehicle cannot be applied by the driver of the breakdown vehicle the exemption which permits rigid drawbar trailers to be drawn without a driver's "mate" does not apply. Regulation 135 (1)(j), however, makes a special exception to the requirements for an attendant where a broken-down vehicle is being towed provided "the brokendown vehicle cannot be steered by its own steering gear."
It is common practice to exhibit an "on tow" notice at the rear of a broken-down vehicle. This is a sensible precaution but there is no xequirement for it in law. The rear number plate on the towed vehicle must be the same as the one which is displayed on the vehicle towing it.
Where the recovery truck is used with trade plates the rear plate can be removed from the towing vehicle and placed at the rear of the broken-down one. If the breakdown lorry is taxed, then a spare number plate should be carried or the one on it made easily removable so that it can be transferred to the vehicle being towed.